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THE HONEST FARMER;
HONESTY THE BEST POLICY.
ADMIRAL MURRAY, of Seaton, in the west of Scotland, an officer in the navy, having grown grey in the service of his country, was dismissed with honour, and allowed to retire on full pay. After an absence from his native country of more than half a century, having by the death of his elder brother come to the possession of the family estate, he determined to revisit the scenes of his childhood, and to take up his residence once more under his native roof. It gave him pleasure to think, that after having weathered so many storms, he would be permitted to end the voyage of life where it first began, and to lay up his shattered hulk, as he called it, in the peaceful harbour of his forefathers. Though he had now entered his seventieth year, his constitution was still healthy and vigorous;
and, had it not been for the white hairs thinly scattered over his wrinkled forehead, and the want of teeth to preserve the due distance between his nose and chin, you might have supposed him, from the fire of his eye, and the firmness of his step, to have been younger by at least twenty years.
He had not been many weeks settled among his new neighbours, before they found him out to be a strange unaccountable kind of man, who did everything in a way different from other people. As his situation in life made him a man of considerable importance in that part of the country, you may easily imagine that the oddness of his manners would occasion much talk, and that different people would have very different notions about his character. It was generally allowed, however, that though the admiral had his whims and had his sea-phrases, yet if you suffered him to have his own way (and he would take his own way whether you suffered it or not), he was a very warm-hearted, friendly kind of man. He was free and familiar with his tenantry and cotters, but if any of them were so impudent as to use too much liberty with him, he could in a moment assume all the distance and dignity to which a habit of command at sea had accustomed him. He entered
with great activity and keenness into every scheme that was likely to be of advantage to the neighbourhood, and had in less than two years established a friendly society and parish library, which, under his patronage, quickly rose to a flourishing state. For the use of these excellent institutions, he built at his own expense a neat and convenient room, in the most public situation he could find. In this room some newspapers were kept, for the benefit of those who had leisure and taste for that kind of reading; and here the most respectable of the farmers usually met, after the labours of the day were over, to hear the news, and to spend the evening in friendly conversation. This plan could be carried into effect with less danger of bad consequences, as the admiral had banished all petty alehouses from his estate, and those who had formerly been corrupted by the neighbourhood of such nuisances, were gradually returning to habits of sobriety and industry. The old gentleman himself used to frequent these evening meetings, and whilst he thus preserved good order and harmony, made himself acquainted with the characters of his different dependants.
Such was the situation of things, when the failure of the crops in the years 1799 and 1800
reduced the poor to a state of extreme distress, and called forth the active benevolence of those in the higher ranks, who had hearts to feel for the miseries of their situation. On that occasion the exertions of Admiral Murray were unremitting; and some of those who then experienced his bounty, can scarcely at this day mention his name without tears of gratitude. I wish I could say as much for them all.
In the month of May, 1801, as the old gentleman was one day, after dinner, seated, according to his usual custom, in his elbow chair, composing himself for his evening nap, a servant came hastily to inform him that one of his tenants, of the name of Johnston, wanted to speak to him on an affair of importance. The admiral, who did not relish so unseasonable an intrusion, peevishly told the servant to send the farmer about his business; but scarcely was the door closed when his anger began to cool, and ringing the bell with violence, he countermanded his orders, and desired Johnston to be shown up stairs. The poor man found his landlord in an unfortunate humour, considering the news he had to communicate; and a person better skilled in the ways of the world, would perhaps have contrived to delay his errand till some more favourable opportunity.
But it was Johnston's custom to do what he conceived to be his duty, and leave the event to Providence. As he entered the room, it was easy to see that his mind was much disturbed, and that he could with difficulty find words to give the information he intended. At last, however, he made his master understand, that, besides his having lost a very considerable sum by the failure of a brother farmer, for whom lic had been induced to become security to a considerable amount, his crops, during the last two years, had been almost totally destroyed by the badness of the seasons; and that, to complete his misfortunes, a disease having got among his cattle, which, in the course of three weeks, had carried them off one by one, he had seen the last of them expire that very evening. "The end of all this long palaver, I suppose,' cried the admiral impatiently, "is to inform me that you don't intend to pay me any more rent." "I do solemnly assure you, sir," answered the poor man, "that it is not in my power; but what I can I will do; I come to give you up the lease of my farm, and all that I am possessed of, to the last farthing; and I will work day and night till I be able to pay you the rest." "Well, well," said the admiral, something softened, "I will hear no more at present--go and